Posts Tagged ‘Muslims’

Escape From China’s Xinjiang Internment Camps Called “Impossible”

February 7, 2019

Sayragul Sauytbay, the only person to have worked inside an internment camp in Xinjiang and spoken publicly about it, now faces an uncertain future in Kazakhstan.

Speaking to a packed courthouse in eastern Kazakhstan in August 2018, Sayragul Sauytbay—an ethnic Kazakh Chinese national—provided some of the earliest testimony about Beijing’s vast internment camp system for Muslim minorities in its western Xinjiang region. As a former instructor at a camp, Sauytbay had crossed the border illegally into Kazakhstan four months earlier, as she feared internment herself, and now stood on trial with prosecutors in the Central Asian country vying for her deportation back to China.

Practicing Islam is forbidden in parts of China, with individuals caught praying, fasting, growing a beard or wearing a hijab facing arrest [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

Practicing Islam is forbidden in parts of China, with individuals caught praying, fasting, growing a beard or wearing a hijab facing arrest [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

Sauytbay’s lawyers argued that she would be arrested or even killed for having shared knowledge of the camps, where between 800,000 and 2 million members of traditionally Muslim ethnic groups have been detained since 2017, according to U.S. State Department estimates. Despite Kazakhstan’s strong ties to Beijing, the court declined to send Sauytbay back to China. The ruling was seen as a rebuke of Kazakhstan’s powerful neighbor, and as Sauytbay was ushered out of the courtroom, she was greeted by a mob of supporters, who chanted, “Long live Kazakhstan!”

Then the previously outspoken Sauytbay went silent, engaging in a media blackout shortly after her trial. Now, six months later, the summer celebrations atop the courtroom steps look premature, with her future in Kazakhstan uncertain and pressure from China for her extradition growing.

Sayragul Sauytbay sits inside a defendants' cage during a hearing at a court in Zharkent, Kazakhstan, on July 13, 2018. (Ruslan Pryanikov/AFP/Getty Images)

Sayragul Sauytbay sits inside a defendants’ cage during a hearing at a court in Zharkent, Kazakhstan, on July 13, 2018. (Ruslan Pryanikov/AFP/Getty Images)

In an interview with Foreign Policy, Sauytbay, 42, said she fears that she may be sent back to China and that despite the August court ruling, her status in the country remains in limbo. Facing a growing set of obstacles—from attempts to ensure her silence to absent legal representation to having been repeatedly denied asylum status by the government—she said her time in Kazakhstan, where her husband and two children are both citizens, could be coming to an end.

“I am an inconvenient witness. I saw everything [in the camps],” Sauytbay said in a late January interview. “I can’t say that [China is] afraid of me, but they want me to keep silent.”

As the only person to have worked inside an internment camp in Xinjiang and spoken publicly about it, Sauytbay remains a particular liability for Beijing as it seeks to curb the mounting international criticism around its mass internment system.

A photo posted to the WeChat account of the Xinjiang Judicial Administration shows Uyghur detainees listening to a 'de-radicalization' speech at a re-education camp in Hotan prefecture's Lop county, April 2017.

A photo posted to the WeChat account of the Xinjiang Judicial Administration shows Uyghur detainees listening to a ‘de-radicalization’ speech at a re-education camp in Hotan prefecture’s Lop county, China

“I’d love nothing more than to get asylum in Kazakhstan and be a happy mom with my children,” Sauytbay said. “But I don’t know if that is possible anymore. I can’t exclude pressure from the Chinese side on the government of Kazakhstan.”

Sauytbay said she remains conflicted about what to do. She is still committed to finding a way to have her status formalized in Kazakhstan, but she also feels a sense of duty to keep speaking out about the abuses she witnessed. Sauytbay reiterated claims she made during her hearing in August that she was granted access to classified documents that offered new insights about the inner workings of the network of camps in Xinjiang but refused to disclose any details.

“I don’t want to talk about that until I have some kind of protection,” she said. “I’d prefer that protection to come from Kazakhstan, but I might need help from other countries.”

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Re-education of Uighurs in Xinjiang

Beijing made efforts to ensure Sauytbay’s silence. As first reported by the Globe and Mail, she received news that members of her family still in Xinjiang had been arrested and possibly sent to a camp by Chinese authorities during her trial in Kazakhstan. Sauytbay said she believes the arrests were in retaliation for her releasing information about the internment system in China and that a few months after her post-trial silence, she received word from contacts in Xinjiang that her family had been released and were now back home.

Sauytbay also said a small group of people, unknown to her, came to her house after the trial and told her to keep silent. The small group of Kazakh-speaking men spoke in vague terms about the Chinese government’s policies in Xinjiang and said there would be consequences for her and her family if she spoke out again.

“I don’t know who they were, but they showed up and said that they know all about me and my family and that if I don’t stay silent, I will be taken to [a camp],” Sauytbay said.

At her public hearing in August, Sauytbay provided new details about the camps, describing the high walls and barbed wire that she believed held around 2,500 ethnic Kazakhs for indoctrination. Sauytbay worked as an instructor at the camp, teaching detainees Mandarin and Communist Party propaganda. She also said she witnessed grave abuses in the camps and inhumane conditions for the detainees, saying that many were malnourished and psychologically abused. Chinese officials have denied such charges, arguing that the measures are necessary to fight Islamist extremism among its Muslim population and that they are guiding “Islam to be compatible with socialism.”

Kazakhstan’s government is still walking a tightrope between acquiescing to Beijing’s demands and keeping public opinion on its side.

Her case has put the Kazakh government in a difficult bind. Kazakhstan remains highly dependent on Chinese investment and has positioned itself as a launching pad for Beijing’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. But Sauytbay is one of thousands of ethnic Kazakh Chinese nationals with family ties to Kazakhstan who have become caught up in Xinjiang’s crackdown, and grassroots activists have begun calling on the government to do more. Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently played a more activediplomatic role in securing the release of Kazakhs from detention in China, but the government is still walking a tightrope between acquiescing to Beijing’s demands and keeping public opinion on its side.

Despite the threats against her family in China, Sauytbay said she has received less pressure from the Kazakh authorities since her summer trial and went out of her way to praise President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s longtime autocrat, for his benevolence in letting her stay in the country.

Uali Islam, Sauytbay’s husband, said Kazakh officials have encouraged them to stay out of the public eye as Sauytbay applies for asylum in the country but have not threatened them over speaking out.

This strategy of silence during the asylum process was backed by her lawyer, Abzal Quspan. Sauytbay admitted during her trial that she entered Kazakhstan illegally and was willing to serve a prison sentence as long as she wasn’t sent back to China. The judge gave her a six-month suspended sentence that could be served at home with her family. However, she has since faced a series of roadblocks that have left her questioning her future in Kazakhstan and the legal strategy recommended by Quspan.

According to Islam and Sauytbay, Quspan has grown distant since last summer’s trial and became unreachable during legal deadlines over the last two months.

According to Islam and Sauytbay, Quspan has grown distant since last summer’s trial and became unreachable during legal deadlines over the last two months.

Part of this, they said, is because Quspan was dealing with his sick daughter, who died in January. Quspan told FP that he had been absent and even unreachable during his daughter’s illness and that he asked Saule Abedinova, a Kazakh journalist who has worked closely with him and Sauytbay, to work as a liaison while he grappled with his family tragedy. Quspan said he will continue to represent Sauytbay and that the possibility of her asylum status being denied and her being sent back to China is real.“The risk is there, definitely,” Quspan said.

Islam and Sauytbay recently accused Abedinova of blocking access to Quspan, spreading rumors about them on social media, and trying to keep Sauytbay silent. Abedinova did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication, but she has denied the accusations on her active Facebook page. Abedinova had been involved in Sauytbay’s case since the August trial and worked as an unofficial spokesperson for the family, telling local media that Sauytbay would remain inaccessible during the asylum process.

In late January, Abedinova signed an open letter, along with a group of prominent Kazakh academics and writers, to the Kazakh government asking for the closure of Atajurt Eriktileri, a local grassroots organization that has been actively documenting cases of ethnic Kazakhs and Kazakh citizens caught up in the crackdown in Xinjiang and which rallied public supporters around Sauytbay during her trial. The letter said Atajurt’s work has provoked discord in Kazakh society, jeopardized good relations between Beijing and Astana, and that the issue of ethnic Kazakhs in China is an internal Chinese issue that should be addressed at the official level by both governments. Similar complaints dealing with politically sensitive subjects have often been a precursor to government action in Kazakhstan, such as when the Kazakh version of Forbes and the news site Ratel.kz faced swift backlash after letters were published about their reporting on the business interests of a former finance minister last year.

Sauytbay still has other legal avenues to pursue that would technically keep her in Kazakhstan for at least a year, but after having her asylum request denied twice, the prospect of Kazakhstan prioritizing its relations with Beijing over its international commitments on refugees is more real than ever.

“There are no guarantees about Sayragul’s future,” Islam said. “I don’t think that keeping quiet was a good strategy for us.”

Reid Standish is a journalist based in Helsinki, Finland. He was formerly an associate editor at Foreign Policy. @reidstan
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Indian state chief stages sit-in against Modi over graft probe

February 4, 2019

The chief minister of a big Indian state led a sit-in on Monday in a standoff with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government over a corruption investigation she condemned as a vendetta, as political tension rises ahead of a general election.

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Mamata Banerjee, the firebrand chief minister of West Bengal, began the protest overnight in the state capital, Kolkata, after federal police swooped on the home of a police commissioner as part of an investigation into Ponzi schemes that defrauded thousands of small investors.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting in Thakurnagar, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. (AP)

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Banerjee, who leads a regional party trying to forge a front against Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), accused the federal government of trying to undermine state powers.

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West Bengal, which sends the third largest number of legislators to the lower house of parliament, has become a battleground state as the Hindu nationalist BJP looks to make in-roads in the east to make up for any losses in its northern heartland.

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Over the past several months, disputed have erupted between the BJP and Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and there have been allegations that hard-line Hindu groups are trying to stir up tension with minority Muslims to win votes.

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“The highest levels of the BJP leadership are doing the worst kind of political vendetta,” Banerjee said in a tweet. “They are misusing power to take control of the police and destroy all institutions.”

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Hundreds of her supporters gathered at Banerjee’s protest venue on Monday, shouting encouragement.

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The chief minister sat on a wooden platform, surrounded by ministers and party leaders, and held a meeting of her cabinet.

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But the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is controlled by the federal government, said state police prevented its agents from carrying out their work on Sunday and even briefly detained them.

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“A clash like this, between law enforcement agencies, is not only unfortunate but is also dangerous for the country’s federal and political system,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament.

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Modi has to call the election by May. Polls suggest his alliance may emerge as the largest group in parliament but short of a majority. Regional parties like Banerjee’s could play a crucial role in any coalition building.

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Opposition parties led by the Congress party said they backed Banerjee in her fight with Modi’s administration.

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Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said Modi and his party were waging an “unrelenting” attack on political institutions.

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“The entire opposition will stand together and defeat these fascist forces,” he said.

Reuters

 

China’s surveillance of Muslim Uighurs

February 1, 2019

As China faces increasing criticism over its treatment of its Muslim population, new details emerge about how Beijing spies on Uighurs at home and abroad.

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Photo credit JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

The Turkish coal-mining town of Zonguldak seems an unlikely place to meet a man who says he’s a Chinese spy, but it’s here where Yusuf Amat arranged to meet us.

Sitting in the lobby of a hotel overlooking the Black Sea, waiting for him to arrive, I wonder what kind of person would agree to inform on neighbours, friends and even family for a government accused by rights groups of carrying out a brutal campaign of mass arrests and detention.

As Amat walks in through the glass door, I almost miss him. Wearing grey overalls, a grey cotton-knit hat and a grey bulky jacket, everything about him – from his clothes to his mannerisms – is unremarkable.

“Ni hao (hello),” Amat says softly, greeting me in Mandarin as he casts his eyes down and gently shakes my hand.

“Sorry for being late, I just finished my shift at the gas station and had to take a few buses to get here.”

Uighur Yusuf Amat says the Chinese government allegedly forced him into spying on his family and friends in Xinjiang and abroad [Jenni Henderson/Al Jazeera]

Amat is Uighur. A Muslim ethnic-minority group in China, Uighurs have been the target of a major crackdown by the government in Beijing. A United Nations human rights panel says this has led to up to a million people being imprisoned, in what the Chinese call “reeducation centres“.

“My role,” Amat explains,”was to feed information to officials”.

“I reported on everything people did – what they ate, drank, what they did in private in their homes, whether it was friends or relatives, I shared it all.”

Amat says his information was sent to authorities.

What upsets Amat, he says, is that the officials often imprisoned people for “harmless and inconsequential” reasons.

“You could have a long beard or some religious text on your phone, or maybe you studied abroad or had a long-distance phone call with someone overseas. It could all land you in detention.”

Amat says he began spying in 2012 because officials arrested and tortured his mother, threatening to keep her in detention unless he agreed to work for them.

“From when I was young, I always told myself I would protect my mum. But I didn’t do it. When they took me to see her, my heart was so pained.”

Amat says his handler sent him to also spy abroad, as part of China’s expanding global network of surveillance. From 2012 to 2018, Amat says he was told to infiltrate Uighur communities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey. He says Beijing has “countless” informants around the world.

“I’m from the small town of Karamay and I’m just one of many my handler deals with. There are dozens of towns the same size throughout Xinjiang, not to mention big cities. And then there are the international operations. So you can imagine how many eyes are out there.”

And Amat says China is getting bolder on the international front, claiming government operatives have abducted Uighurs abroad.

Once back in China, he says, many disappear into the reeducation centres.

China’s government denies Uighurs are being arrested arbitrarily and held against their will and says these are “voluntary” vocational training facilities, designed to provide job training and to stamp out “extremist” tendencies.

Amat says the government is “outright lying” and he himself spent a year and a half in a detention centre, having been arrested for trying to fly to the Middle East and join Muslim fighters.

It was while he was serving his sentence that he says authorities recruited him. Once he agreed to be an informant, Amat says he was given the job of cleaning the detention facilities.

His rounds gave him access to many areas of the centre.

“I’ve seen many people being beaten in interrogations inside. At times they used bare electrical cords – which inflict pain beyond what you can imagine. Those who were beaten made horrible shrieks, especially the young ladies my age. What I can’t forget is the blood – human blood on the floor, on the walls, everywhere, afterwards.”

Al Jazeera spoke to more than a dozen former detainees. Many confirm they either witnessed or were themselves tortured and abused in these centres.

Uighur-Muslim scholar Abduweli Ayup volunteers his time to teach the Uighur language and culture to children who have fled Xinjiang with their families [Steve Chao/Al Jazeera]

Abduweli Ayup, a teacher and writer, spent 15 months in three facilities in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province. On the day of his arrest, he says police officers allegedly took him to a holding cell and raped him.

“The first day was very bad,” says Ayup.

“They stripped me of my clothes, slapped my buttocks and then they abused me … more than 20 Chinese guys. The next day, police asked me, ‘One day, if you guys are in power, what will you do to us?’ I said, ‘Look, I’m a human being, I’m not an animal like you’.”

Ayup says in the months that followed, he was regularly beaten by other inmates. Prison guards ignored his calls for help, he adds.

“They want you to be tortured like this. If you’re tortured a lot, it’s easier for you to cooperate with them during the interrogation.”

Ayup says the rape and beatings were orchestrated to get him to admit to being a separatist or a “terrorist”.

“I am a teacher, I am a scholar. I have never thought about these things. I am not a separatist. I am not a terrorist. What do I have to confess?” he asks.

Ayup was jailed for raising money for Uighur schools after Chinese authorities made it illegal for children to learn the Uighur language.

“They want to delete Uighur. They want Uighurs to believe the Chinese Communist Party is God,” Ayup says.

After being released, Ayup says he feared he would be locked up again, so he fled with his family to Turkey. Uighurs share a long history with the country and thousands have settled there in the last decade.

In Istanbul, Ayup has been documenting the stories of Uighur detainees.

One of those is Gulbakhar Jaliloua.

Ayup takes us to meet her at a safe house in the city. Sitting on a couch, she begins to sob uncontrollably as she recounts her experience.

“I was held for one year, three months, 10 days …  I counted every single hour and minute. An hour felt like a year,” she says.

Jaliloua says she was arrested in Xinjiang while picking up a shipment for her clothing business. What baffles her about the arrest is that she isn’t even a Chinese citizen. When she told authorities she was from Kazakhstan, they simply hid her identity, Jaliloua says.

“They gave me a Chinese name and Chinese ID number so the Kazakhstan embassy couldn’t find me.”

Jaliloua recounts how she was crammed into a small cell with up to 35 other women, and then subjected to terrifying interrogations that sometimes lasted 24 hours.

“They put a black hood on my head, and handcuffs and chains … I couldn’t walk fast with the leg cuffs, so they kept pushing me. When I fell down, they dragged me to the interrogation room.”

Gulbakar Jaliloua is a Muslim Uighur and citizen of Kazakhstan. She says she was detained for more than a year by the Chinese authorities when she made a business trip to China. [Steve Chao/Al Jazeera]

Jaliloua says she and other Muslim inmates were not allowed to pray and they lived in constant fear they would be punished if found to be secretly doing so.

In detention, she lost 30kg but says her treatment was better than that meted out to Chinese Uighurs.

“There was this young woman named Patigul … One day, she came back with her hair all messed up … She showed me the right side of her head. It was swollen and bleeding … after a heavy beating.”

Chinese officials categorically deny accusations of abuse and ignore growing international calls to shut down the “reeducation” centres.

The government says it will allow UN officials to visit the facilities, so long as they “abide by Chinese law … avoid interfering in domestic matters … and instead, take on a neutral and objective attitude”.

Amat says it is no longer possible for him to stay silent on the treatment of his people.

“China thinks what they’re doing is right, but they’re wrong,” he says. “Yes, every country has their own laws, but there is also a universal international standard. And in my eyes, they’re seriously violating this standard. Uighurs don’t have a right to our own freedom, to live the way we would like.”

A Uighur man stands in front of a map showing Xinjiang, the Uighur homeland in China that some believe should be the independent state of East Turkestan [Steve Chao/Al Jazeera

Amat confesses he’s been consumed with guilt for informing on fellow Uighurs.

“It’s like a painful needing stabbing into me every time.”

I asked him why he’s decided to share this information now. Amat says he longer has much to lose. Most of his family have been placed in centres, in part, he says, because of his spying.

“My sister, my mother and my brother-in-law, his brothers, their parents, my uncle … they’re all in jail.  They’re all in there.”

Amat says he moved to Zonguldak because few Uighurs live in the town, making it harder for Chinese officials to ask him to spy.

Now that he’s spoken to media, he says it’s likely he’ll face retribution.

But he says he’s ready.

“This is not just about my immediate family, this is about taking a stand for every Uighur. They’re all my family. My own life doesn’t matter. Whatever happens, happens. I’ve lived enough.”

101 East follows the Uighurs’ quest for a safe place to call home. Find more here and join the conversation @AJ101East

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

https://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2019/01/exposed-china-surveillance-muslim-uighurs-190130011449217.html

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Pakistan: Islamabad on high-alert as Court Hears Asia Bibi’s Case — Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in a blasphemy case

January 29, 2019

Freedom of Religion, Rule of Law Questioned

The Supreme Court of Pakistan today will take up a petition moved to seek review of its October 31, 2018 verdict of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in a blasphemy case a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in a blasphemy case.

The review petition will be taken up by a three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.

A day earlier on Monday, the capital administration made stringent security arrangements, including the deployment of paramilitary troops in Islamabad’s sensitive areas.

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In a letter written to the capital chief commissioner’s office, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the Islamabad district magistrate sought the deployment of Pakistan Rangers personnel in the city “to avoid any untoward incident” during the hearing of a “sensitive case” on January 29.

The magistrate suggested that the Rangers authorities be approached with the request to deploy quick response forces (QRFs) of the paramilitary force in aid of the civil administration to bolster the capital’s security.

The review petition filed by Qari Muhammad Salaam pleads the apex court to maintain the capital punishment awarded by the trial court to Asia Bibi.

Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, has been on death row since 2010. — File
Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, has been on death row since 2010. — File

Qari Salaam is a prayer leader of a mosque who lives in a village in Nankana Sahib tehsil and had lodged the FIR about the alleged blasphemy incident.

On Oct 31 last year, a three-judge SC bench had reversed the judgements of the Lahore High Court (LHC) and the trial court thus setting aside the conviction and death sentence awarded to Aasia Bibi, who had been accused of committing blasphemy during an argument with a Muslim woman in Sheikhupura in June 2009.

“Keeping in mind the evidence produced by the prosecution against the alleged blasphemy committed by the appellant, the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt,” the then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar had written in the detailed judgment.

Editorial: A grave injustice avoided

Justice Khosa, in his note, had said: “Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant’s religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixing truth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous.”

After her release from Multan’s women prison on November 7, Asia Bibi was flown to Islamabad onboard a special aircraft. She was then taken to an undisclosed place amid tight security. Authorities have remained tight-lipped about her movement and whereabouts for security reasons.

Her lawyer, Saiful Malook, who had received death threats and fled the country after Bibi’s acquittal, returned to Islamabad to attend Tuesday’s hearing.

The petitioners “have no case against my client, I am sure of that”, Malook told The Associated Press on Monday. He said he has asked authorities to provide him with personal security.

TLP threatens protests

Meanwhile, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which had led three-day-long mass protests against Bibi’s acquittal in November, rejected the SC bench formed to hear the review petition and threatened a protest movement if Bibi is given “judicial relief”.

Most of the top TLP leadership, including its chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, is presently imprisoned in the wake of a massive crackdown launched by law enforcement agencies against the religiopolitical group.

Read: What you need to know about Aasia Bibi’s trial

In a video message, TLP’s central acting emir Shafiq Amini claimed that the government had promised them that a larger bench including Sharia court judges would be formed to hear the review petition against Bibi’s acquittal. He demanded that a larger bench be formed after dissolving the current bench.

A Pakistani supporter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a hardline religious party, holds an image of Christian woman Asia Bibi during a protest rally following the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Bibi of blasphemy in Islamabad.  Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Asking TLP workers to “be prepared”, Amini said: “No one should expect a compromise from our end”.

The TLP had called off its protests last year after reaching an agreement with the government — the foremost condition of which was the placement of Bibi’s name on the Exit Control List. The government, however, had only agreed to “initiate the legal process” to place her name on the list, while also agreeing that it would not oppose any review petitions being filed against the SC judgement.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1460376/islamabad-on-high-alert-as-sc-set-to-hear-petition-against-aasia-bibis-acquittal

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TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi was taken under 'protective custody' last month. — File photo

TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi was taken under ‘protective custody’ last month. — File photo

 

Philippines: Islamic State suspected after IED explosion near a karaoke bar by the municipal police station

January 27, 2019

An explosion ripped through Barangay Poblacion 4 in Midsayap town in this province six hours after a bomb blast hit General Santos City on Sunday.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde ordered the relief of Chief Inspector Patrick Elma, General Santos Police Station 2 commander, and Superintendent Samuel Cadungog, Midsayap town police chief, to allow an impartial probe into the incidents.

Elma was replaced by Senior Inspector Davis Dulawan. Superintendent Joan Maganto replaced Cadungog.

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Superintendent Aldrin Gonzalez, Soccsksargen police spokesman, said the improvised explosive device (IED) went off near a karaoke bar only a few meters away from the municipal police station.

“No one was hurt, but the explosion caused panic among residents,” Gonzalez said.

Bomb experts have yet to determine the type of IED used.

Probers said they have yet to establish if the bombing was linked to previous explosions, but Albayalde believes militant groups with ties to the Islamic State were behind the attacks.

Seven people, including a three-year-old girl, were wounded when a bomb exploded in Barangay Apopong in General Santos City.

Five persons were killed in bomb attacks in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat on Aug. 28 and Sept. 3.

On Saturday, an ordnance team deactivated a bomb found along the Cotabato-Isulan Highway in Barangay Matagabong in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. The IED was rigged with a blasting contraption attached to a mobile phone.

Military officials said members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters could have planted the bombs.

Albayalde said the police in entire Mindanao is on highest alert since the Sultan Kudarat bombing on Sept. 3.

“We reminded our regional directors in Mindanao to strengthen their target hardening measures…. Intelligence gathering is also very important,” he said.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/nation/2018/09/18/1852326/cop-chiefs-sacked-over-general-santos-midsayap-bombings#flO6AIPfcTbX2pDM.99

Microsoft says Bing search engine blocked in China (Plus Some of the Stories The Chinese People Are Unable To See Due to Government Censorship)

January 24, 2019

Microsoft Corp’s Bing search engine has been blocked in China, the company said on Jan 23, making it the latest foreign technology service to be shut down behind the country’s Great Firewall.

“We’ve confirmed that Bing is currently inaccessible in China and are engaged to determine next steps,” the company said in a statement.

t is the US technology giant’s second setback in China since November 2017 when its Skype Internet phone call and messaging service was pulled from Apple and Android app stores.

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A search performed on Bing’s China website – cn.bing.com – from within mainland China directs the user to a page that says the server cannot be reached.

The Financial Times, citing a source, reported on Wednesday that China Unicom, a major state-owned telecommunication company, had confirmed the government order to block the search engine.

Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), a government watchdog, did not respond to faxed questions about Bing’s blocked website.

Bing was the only major foreign search engine accessible from within China’s so-called Great Firewall. Microsoft censored search results on sensitive topics, in accordance with government policy.

Microsoft also has a partnership with Chinese datacentre provider 21Vianet to offer its products Azure and Office 365 to clients in the country.

Alphabet’s Google search platform has been blocked in China since 2010. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in December it has “no plans” to relaunch a search engine in China though it is continuing to study the idea amid increased scrutiny of big tech firms.


Google CEO Sundar Pichai appears before the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 11. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

President Xi Jinping has accelerated control of the internet in China since 2016, as the ruling Communist Party seeks to crack down on dissent in the social media landscape.

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Nobody has worked harder for a successful business relationship with China than Apple’s Tim Cook

In a statement on Jan 23, CAC said it had deleted more than 7 million pieces of online information and 9,382 mobile apps. It also criticised technology company Tencent’s news app for spreading “vulgar information”.

Reuters

Stories the average reader and China is unable to read due to censorship:

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Ti-Anna Wang

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg is seen at the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in Dalian, China, in this photograph made available on Jan. 14, 2019.Source: Dalian Intermediate People’s Court

Meng Hongwei (picture-alliance/dpa/W. Maye-E)

Men Hongwei was as elected as Interpol’s chief in November 2016, becoming the first Chinese head of the agency. He is now one of “The Disappeared” in China….

Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig (composite image)
Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig are being accused of harming national security. AFP photos
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China’s most successful film star Fan Bingbing has fallen foul of the authorities.

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 (China blames Trump Tweets for Chinese economic downturn)

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U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk the grounds at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, June 2013 Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk the grounds at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, June 2013 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
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The two images were published side by side this week on the Twitter-like Chinese social media site Weibo.

The two images were published side by side this week on the Twitter-like Chinese social media site Weibo. Photo: REUTERS (These images are banned in China)
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A Chinese coast guard vessel guards a China oil rig in the South China Sea near Vietnam in 2014. Reuters photo
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Re-education of Uighurs in Xinjiang
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Christians in China — China Photos/Getty

A faded photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen near a Christian poster with the word “Grace” outside a house church near Nanyang in central China’s Henan province. Experts and activists say that as he consolidates his power, Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982. Photo: AP
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Chinese police in Xinjiang

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Plainclothes security officers take away a supporter of Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang near the Secondary Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin in northeastern China’s Tianjin municipality, on Dec. 26. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

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Jeff Widener was in Beijing working for the Associated Press on June 4, 1989. His image of “Tank Man” shocked the world. Photo: Jeff Widener & Associated Press

Pakistan’s top court to decide on Christian Woman Asia Bibi appeal Jan 29: lawyer

January 24, 2019

Pakistan, like Indonesia, says it does not persecute Christians

Pakistan’s Supreme Court will decide on January 29 whether or not to allow an appeal against its acquittal of a Christian woman at the centre of a blasphemy row, a lawyer involved in the case said Thursday.

If the court refuses to allow the appeal, it will remove the last legal hurdle facing Asia Bibi, who is a prime target in conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan and remains in protective custody.

Asia Bibi was on death row for eight years before her death sentence was overturned

Asia Bibi was on death row for eight years before her death sentence was overturned. AFP/File

Bibi was on death row for eight years for blasphemy, a hugely sensitive charge.

The Supreme Court’s decision in October last year to overturn her conviction ignited days of violent demonstrations, with enraged Islamists calling for her beheading, mutiny within the powerful military and the assassination of the country’s top judges.

The government has since launched a crackdown on the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party — the Islamist group driving the violent protests — charging its leaders with sedition and terrorism.

But authorities also struck a deal with the protesters to end the violence, forming an agreement which included allowing a final review of the Supreme Court’s judgement.

On January 29, “the court will determine if our appeal against her acquittal is admitted”, Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, the lawyer who filed the petition seeking an appeal, told AFP.

“Usually the court decides on the same day if the appeal is admitted or not,” he added.

Blasphemy continues to be a massively inflammatory issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven accusations of insulting Islam can spark lynchings.

Many cases see Muslims accusing Muslims. But rights activists have warned that minorities — particularly Christians — are often caught in the crossfire, with blasphemy charges used to settle personal scores.

Speculation has been rife since Bibi’s acquittal that an asylum deal with a European or North American country may be in the works.

AFP

Related:

Pakistan Lahore Proteste nach Blasphemie Urteil (Getty Images/AFP/A. Ali)

Asia Bibi’s blasphemy verdict: Islamists protest across Pakistan

https://www.dw.com/en/asia-bibis-blasphemy-verdict-islamists-protest-across-pakistan/a-46101210

A Pakistani supporter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a hardline religious party, holds an image of Christian woman Asia Bibi during a protest rally following the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Bibi of blasphemy in Islamabad.  Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Protests broke out in Pakistan when the court acquitted Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman charged with blasphemy. (AP)
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A supporter of a radical Islamic group stands guard as protesters block a highway.

Asia Bibi: A supporter of a radical Islamic group stands guard as protesters block a highway in Pakistan. Photograph: Muhammad Sajjad/AP

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Indonesia frees Christian politician jailed for blasphemy

January 24, 2019

Freedoms of expression and religion in Indonesia are tenuous

Indonesia on Thursday released the popular former governor of Jakarta from jail, after serving a reduced two-year sentence for blasphemy against Islam, a case that exposed deep religious divides in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

An ethnic Chinese Christian, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, 52, lost a 2017 bid to be re-elected governor over charges of insulting the Koran that brought hundreds of thousands of Muslim protesters to the streets, led by hardline Islamist groups.

“My dad’s a free man! Thank you everyone for the support,” his son, Nicholas Sean, said on social media app Instagram, alongside a selfie with his father.

Months of protests and a polarizing election preceded Purnama’s jailing in May 2017, raising concerns over the erosion of Indonesia’s long-held reputation for pluralism and tolerance, and the creeping influence of Islam in politics.

Jakarta's Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama -- seen here at his trial in 2017 -- won praise for his efforts to clean up Jakarta before his fall from grace

Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — seen here at his trial in 2017 — won praise for his efforts to clean up Jakarta before his fall from grace.  POOL/AFP

“(Purnama’s) prosecution showed non-Muslims and many Muslims that the freedoms of expression and religion in Indonesia are tenuous,” New York-based Human Rights Watch said.

Purnama’s troubles started with comments that political rivals were deceiving people by using a verse in the Koran to say Muslims should not be led by a non-Muslim.

Later, an incorrectly subtitled video of the comments went viral, eventually leading to his defeat at the polls and his imprisonment on charges of blasphemy.

Indonesian Muslims gather during a rally against Jakarta's minority Christian Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama who is being prosecuted for blasphemy, a...

Indonesian Muslims gather during a rally against Jakarta’s minority Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama who is being prosecuted for blasphemy, at the National Monument in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Tens of thousands of conservative Muslims rallied in the Indonesian capital on Friday in the second major protest in a month against its minority Christian governor. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

As a figure with a no-nonsense reputation for cutting through red tape while in office, he remains popular with progressive Indonesians.

Thousands of Muslims gather during a protest against Jakarta's minority Christian Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama who is being prosecuted for blasphemy, at the National Monument in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Tens of thousands of conservative Muslims rallied in the Indonesian capital on Friday in the second major protest in a month against its minority Christian governor. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Thousands of Muslims gather during a protest against Jakarta’s minority Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama — Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Tens of thousands of conservative Muslims rallied in the Indonesian capital on Friday in the second major protest in a month against its minority Christian governor. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)  (The Associated Press)

“We support him, not because of his religion or beliefs, but because of his good work,” said one of this Muslim supporters, Siti Afifah, who had waited outside the prison for his release.

But Ahok, as he is popularly known in Indonesia, is unlikely to re-enter politics any time soon, media say.

His representatives say he is considering launching a talk show and running his family’s oil trading business.

Last week, in a letter from behind bars, Purnama said he now wanted to be known by his initials “BTP”, and apologized to those hurt by his remarks when in office.

He also urged supporters to exercise their right to vote in April’s presidential election, which many fear may also be tainted by the religious and racial tension that marred the Jakarta governor race two years ago.

President Joko Widodo – once a steadfast ally of Purnama’s – is running for re-election against retired general Prabowo Subianto. Prabowo endorsed the massive protests against Purnama two years ago and backed the winning ticket in that election.

Reporting by Ebrahim Harris in Depok, Ed Davies and Kanupriya Kapoor in Jakarta; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Related:

A Pakistani supporter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a hardline religious party, holds an image of Christian woman Asia Bibi during a protest rally following the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Bibi of blasphemy in Islamabad.  Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Protests broke out in Pakistan when the court acquitted Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman charged with blasphemy. (AP)

Thailand: Suspected Muslim rebels storm temple, kill monks

January 19, 2019

Black-clad gunmen on motorbikes have shot dead two Buddhist monks and wounded two others in southern Thailand. Separatist violence which first flared in 2004 has seen an uptick in recent weeks after a three-year lull.

    
Thai military police stand in front of temple (Reuters/S. Boonthanom)

Thailand’s military leader and prime minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Saturday vowed to “punish” those responsible for storming a Buddhist temple near Malaysia’s border, killing two monks.

Suspected Muslim gunmen dressed in black arrived at the Rattanaupap temple in the southern province of Narathiwat on motorbikes at around 7:30 p.m. local time on Friday (1230 UTC), officials said.

They then entered the building from the back and shot dead two monks, leaving two others wounded. One of those killed was the temple’s abbot.

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Prayut Chan-O-Cha

Read more: Thousands evacuated as Storm Pabuk strikes Thailand beaches

No group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, the first to target monks for more than three years.

Security stepped up at temples and mosques

Local monks were told to suspend morning alms collection starting from Saturday in Thailand’s three most southerly provinces. Security was also stepped up to protect Islamic leaders, after an imam in the same region was shot dead last week.

The temple attack was one of several violent incidents in Narathiwat on Friday, including a roadside bombing that wounded five members of the security forces, and a shootout between paramilitary rangers and five armed men that left one of the gunmen dead.

Read more: Thailand legalizes medicinal marijuana in New Year’s ‘gift’

A drive-by shooting on January 10th in neighboring Pattani province killed four civil defense volunteers.

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“The ghastly attack on Buddhist monks by insurgents in Thailand’s deep south is morally reprehensible, and a war crime and those responsible should be held to account,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Powerful rebel group blamed

HRW has blamed the renewed violence on the militant group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, BRN.

Buddhist monkey shows bullet holes (Reuters/S. Boonthanom)Bullet holes can be seen in the wall of the Buddhist temple in southern Thailand following the attack

BRN has led a separatist campaign over the past 15 years that has left nearly 7,000 people, including at least 23 monks, dead.

Narathiwat is one of Thailand’s three southernmost provinces, the only ones with Muslim majorities in the Buddhist-dominated country. The three provinces and a small part of neighboring Songkhla were part of a sultanate annexed by Thailand in 1909, and tensions have simmered ever since.

Read more: Will Thailand’s military step aside after elections?

The Thai military government has taken part since 2015 in talks brokered by Malaysia that aim to end the violence, but the BRN has stayed out of the dialogue.

That process was stalled last year, and Bangkok has signaled that it will return to the talks this year.

mm/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)

German Police Raid Family Crime Syndicates of Arabic Background

January 13, 2019

More than 1,300 police officers were deployed in coordinated raids against family crime syndicates across northwestern Germany. The raids are focused on shisha bars, cafes and gambling venues.

    
Police at the scene of a shisha bar raid in Bochum (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Thissen)

German police launched simultaneous raids in six cities across the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on Saturday evening, with some 1,300 officers sweeping shisha bars and other venues in Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg, Bochum, Recklinghausen and Gelsenkirchen.

Authorities said they were targeting family crime clans of Arabic background in the northwestern state. According to the mass-circulation Bild daily, police are focusing on the Arabic crime syndicates, especially those with Lebanese background.

Police spokesman Oliver Peiler told reporters that the coordinated raids started at 9 p.m. local time (2000 UTC).

“As we do quite often, tonight we are checking numerous shisha-bars (…) because the shisha bars act as sanctuaries for members of these family clans,” he said.

Clans also use shisha bars, cafes, and gambling venues for money laundering and other illegal business activities, according to media reports. Police in Essen tweeted that a man has been detained carrying €9,000 ($10,322) in cash.

Polizei NRW E

@Polizei_NRW_E

Eine Person vorläufig festgenommen. Er hatte 9000 € Bargeld & einige EC-Karten bei sich. Die rechtmäßige Herkunft muss er den Behörden nun nachweisen.

15 people are talking about this

“He will now need to prove to the authorities that the money has been obtained legally,” they said.

Read moreItalian Mafia, bikers, Berlin clans: Europe’s crime gangs

Thousands of members

While dozens of people have been searched and mutiple properties swept, police are only expected to release official results of the crackdown on Sunday.

Firefighters, customs officers, members of the tax collection service and communal police officers were deployed alongside police squads. Police forces in the affected cities also shared images of the raids on social media under the hashtag “#NullToleranz,” or zero tolerance.

Polizei NRW RE

@polizei_nrw_re

Im Kreis und in der Stadt verteilt finden aktuell Maßnahmen zur Bekämpfung der statt. Wir arbeiten eng mit den Finanzbehörden, dem Hauptzollamt und den Städten zusammen.

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There are about 50 criminal clans active in NRW, with their collective membership topping 10,000, according to police information cited by the Rhenische Post newspaper.

The clans are often involved in prostitution, which is legal in Germany, but also commit acts of violence and vandalism, as well as welfare fraud and other non-violent crimes.

The police are currently investigating the clans’ possible offenses in the real estate market, state criminal police representative Thomas Jungbluth told the newspaper.

‘No tolerance for lawlessness’

The police force in the city of Essen said that some clan members show “little respect towards police or emergency services.”

“We won’t stand for it,” they tweeted.

Polizei NRW E

@Polizei_NRW_E

Einzelne Mitglieder, die in diesen kriminellen Clanstrukturen leben, zeichnen sich durch ein hohes Maß an Abschottung und besonders konspirativem Verhalten aus. Sie zeigen wenig Respekt gegenüber der Polizei oder Rettungsdiensten. Das dulden wir nicht!

See Polizei NRW E’s other Tweets

State Interior Minister Herbert Reul, who observed the raid in Bochum, said it was paramount that state authorities respond to clan criminality.

“We need to show that we are here and that we have no tolerance for lawlessness,” he said. “We must not allow that criminal structures decide what the law is in Germany.”

https://www.dw.com/en/police-in-western-germany-launch-massive-raids-against-criminal-clans/a-47062084